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UNWTO Secretary General attacks eTurboNews at Madrid Ambassador meeting

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At yesterday’s United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) meeting in Madrid, ahead of the General Assembly next month in China, the outgoing Secretary General, Dr. Taleb Rifai, chose to make curiously-timed, critical remarks about investigative media articles related to the election.

Remarkably, he failed to address documented election misconduct within his own organization.

UNWTO represents global tourism, and its continued slide into opaqueness, rather than transparency, is disturbing.

Minister Walter Mzembi from Zimbabwe mounted a robust campaign to have agenda items related to election irregularities added to the General Assembly meeting in China next month. This has received a great deal of pushback from Secretary General Rifai.

Mzembi provided UNWTO with irrefutable documentation of irregularities during the election, and one would have hoped the outgoing Secretary General would be proactive, to shine a light on it, to make it right. The top post of the UNWTO should be the top watch dog, guarding fiercely the reputation, standards, and ethics of the world’s leading tourism organization. This does not appear to be the case with Dr. Rifai.

  • Click here to download the PDF letter by the Zimbabwe Ministry of Tourism laying out the flawed election process.
  • Click here to download the PDF letter by the Zimbabwe Ministry of Tourism laying out the change proposed for the UNWTO Rules of Procedure.

eTurboNews, an industry leader of global travel/tourism news, has a subsidiary media platform geared towards news relevant to UNWTO, WTTC, and other international tourism organizations called WorldTourismWire.

eTN Publisher Juergen Steinmetz said: “We report with balance and fairness, regardless of the subject within either platform. News is news, and we have been diligently following and reporting on the UNWTO Secretary General Election, without favor, prejudice or any regard for who we might offend.

“Today, we received reports from the packed Madrid meeting, of which a record-breaking

90 countries were in attendance, that not one single mention was made of election irregularities. We are disappointed Dr. Rifai spent time in this important meeting maligning media. As media, we have a very real obligation to report known misconduct or irregularities related to the UNWTO Secretary General election.

“We are of the belief that authentic efforts should be spent on reviewing and discussing miscreant conduct related to the UNWTO Secretary General election, rather than speaking poorly of media who reported on the election.”

UWTO Secretary General nominee and Georgian ambassador Zurab Pololikashvili attended the Madrid meeting and was introduced by Dr. Rifai.

Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili had a wonderful opportunity to clarify his side of the story and agenda but again did not speak.

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador Rudo Chitiga who also attended said her country’s intervention is not for the good of her minister, but for the good of tourism and UNWTO.

So far eTN and WorldTourismWire only heard from H.E. Walter Mzembi. Some readers may think this publication is a spokesperson for Minister Mzembi and Zimbabwe.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” publisher Steinmetz said. “Our floor was always open for comments. Especially, we would welcome input from SG nominee Zurab Pololikashvil, and former SG candidates Mr. Márcio Favilla, Mr. Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclement, and Mrs. Young-shim Dho.

“We will continue to report on this important story, despite pressure from the highest level of UNWTO not to do so.”

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